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Pike trouble on the River Blackwater

October 2, 2018 at 5:58 pm

Complacency caught me out this week, when my wife suggested that I go fishing, while she took a drive into town looking for birthday presents. It was a bit of a snap decision and I decided on a new, as yet, unfished swim on the nearby River Blackwater, however reaching inside the fishing and shooting drawer of the freezer, there were no bags of liquidised bread left. What I thought was a bag containing several smaller measures of the precious feed, contained a number of recently made rabbit pasties. Shock, horror! I always have liquidised bread in the freezer! I felt so out of my comfort zone, that I suggested that without being able to fish the bread punch, I would not go fishing after all. “The look on your face!” she said “Can’t you buy some maggots, or something?” She was right of course, I could and would.

Regaining my will to live, Plan B swung into action. I boiled up some hemp seed and checked out my ground bait tin. A half bag of Van Den Eynde Super Cup, a full bag of brown crumb and some dried mole hill soil, would make up some nice maggot and hemp filled balls of ground bait, that would slowly break down on the gravel of the fast flowing Blackwater. I also took a couple of small slices of punch bread as a back up bait. The tackle shop was on my way to the river, The Last of the Big Spenders lashing out one pound, seventy five on half a pint of red maggots.

Arriving at the river, I parked alongside the only other car in the carpark, unloaded my gear from the van and walked to the swim, unable to see until right on top of it, that another angler was already lounged out in bed chair, staring at his feeder rod top. Disappointed I asked if he had caught anything.”Nope” He was the sort, that even if he had caught a dozen barbel, would have given the same reply. I turned and went back to the van. Plan C was to reload the van, drive to the other end of the carpark and walk to another swim, that I had blanked from, when the river was in flood last winter. The swim had good head room for casting a float rod and was almost at the end of the fishery, therefore I hoped, to far for a less determined angler to bother with.

In the winter, this swim had appeared to offer refuge from the floods, deeper water giving way to shallows further down, but two bites and a lost chub were all that it had provided, but now it looked good with a powerful central flow, bordered by slower water. I mixed up my mucky ground bait mix, including the hemp, but saving the maggots to add to the made up balls.

Leaving the ground bait to absorb the water, I tackled up with a 6BB stickfloat to my 14 foot Browning float rod, then punching out a 7 mm pellet of bread for the size 14 hook and casting over to the back eddy along the opposite bank. The float dipped and sank. I lifted into a good sized roach, playing it toward the middle. Whoosh! A pike broke the surface and dived away with the roach. Oh no! Not first cast? Releasing the handle on the reel, I let it spin, the rod bending to the running pike. It stopped and began to allow me to reel it back. It turned and come off. The hook was OK, tied to a 3 lb hook link, then to 5 lb reel line. I’ve had pike trouble before on the Blackwater, then I had a heavy feeder rod with 15 lb reel line with me and after lip hooking a small live bait to a size 12, hooked and landed the pike, releasing it further down stream, allowing me to continue fishing undisturbed. Today I had no feeder rod.

This was a dilemma. I knew it would be back, but did not want to move again. Maybe I could get the pike in next time? Running the bread through again, the roach seemed to have been scared off and ran through with double maggot. The float dived and the rod was bent into a good fish, that felt like a good perch boring deep, as it came back to me. Suddenly the line tightened and I was backwinding a rapidly retreating fish. The hook had straightened. Was it a carp, a barbel, big chub, or had the pike returned already? So far I had been smashed off twice, without landing a fish.

After tying on another 14 barbless hook, I pushed a hole in one of the ground bait balls and filled it with red maggots, dropping it in just past middle, putting in another just upstream of it. About six inches over depth, the float was checked through at half pace, travelling a few feet then dragging under with small perch hugging the bottom, as the hook was set.

Small perch were lined up chasing maggots and with a few in the net, I tried a bread punch pellet, the float sinking away again, this time with a small roach, that I got airborne across the surface to my hand. Next drop in, the bread selected a better roach, which again I swung in to avoid tempting the pike.

After a couple of dropped small dace, I switched back to the maggot, following down another bait ball. The bites were fast and furious, as the dace scooped up the hemp and maggots, a positive bite bringing a nice dace, that fought deep, but then burst onto the surface, the pike rolling, when the dace was lifted clear.

This dace was lucky, not so the next, that fought hard along the bottom, until seized by the pike. Here was another chance, the rod bending over as the predator flashed beneath the surface in an arc. Again it ran down stream, coming back, then turning down again under pressure. It was tiring, slowly swimming up toward me. Soon it was level and beneath my feet, lying just under the surface. The dace was hanging outside of the wide jaws, the pike about thirty inches long. I tried to slide the net under the pike from the high bank, but it rolled away, swimming back out. I wound the reel back down, putting pressure back on and the float went from view, but then the pike was wallowing on the surface and I pulled back in an attempt to surf it over the rim of the landing net. Nearly. Half way in, I lifted the net, only for the net to twist on its thread and the pike to slide out. It dived back to the fast water and ping, the hook link broke on the tight line.

Feeding again and with another hook, the dace and roach had moved off, leaving some of the biggest gudgeon that I have caught for a while.

These were monsters, probably a couple of ounces each, that hugged the bottom like glue, before giving up, to swing straight to hand. Small dace and chub took their place, usually coming off before reaching the surface. I was now paranoid that the pike would return and pulled more fish off the hook, than I landed. A perch hooked on a longer trot, burst onto the surface,. followed by swirls from the pike and I powered the fish back to me.

Normally a perch of this size would not have come in so easily, its spiny dorsal fin erect as it skimmed the surface, but the pike had no food preferences and perch were fair game. Next cast I had a small chub of an ounce and decided to trot this down to Mr Toothy, the pike nosing up, causing the chublet to flap on the surface, but it wanted a larger meal. Next visit will see the pike gear in my bag, then we will see who is the boss.

I fed the last of my groundbait further upstream, trying to keep the fish under my rod top, but the damage had been done and even the gudgeon had stopped biting.

After a traumatic four hours, I’d had over forty fish for about 4 lb, not bad in the circumstances, but with a long walk back to the van, my main thought was focused on getting home, before the traffic came between me and my cup of tea.

Wild trout season closer

September 27, 2018 at 11:17 pm

Despite commitments all this week, I was able to take advantage of late September sunshine for a last chance trout, from my syndicate trout stream. Despite days of rain over the weekend, the river was licking over the stones, when I arrived late in the afternoon, clumps of ranunculus weed exposed on the gravel runs.

Walking down to a once productive S bend, I got into the river to wade up through the shallows toward the upper pool, seeing the tell-tale V from a fish that had been browsing the shallows, watching it dart back into the deeper water.

Leaving my van in a layby, I had stopped to look up and down the river, searching for signs of rising fish, but despite the air being full of wheeling Daddy Long Legs, or Crane Flies for the educated among us, there was zero surface activity. Keeping my rod set up in the garage, has the advantage of more fishing time on the bank, the van allowing rod and landing net to be ready for action.

The size 18 copper headed nymph would do to start. If the Crane Flies began scudding across the surface raising a few fish, it would be an easy swap.

Heavy vegetation growth at the edges, was compensating for the lack of water, speeding up the flow as it was funneled toward the shallows and I made a series of casts, moving steadily upstream, as the nymph fished deeper water, lifting it clear of the gravel to keep it bouncing along the bottom.

Ten minutes into the exercise, the leader held for a second, then dropped back, only to veer off to the right. The sharp upward lift of my rod was automatic and a silver flash broke the surface, then dived back to the pool for a short lived tumbling fight, before racing off downstream into the shallows for a more equal battle, a nice dace skimming on its side over the rapids, straight to my hand.

Holding this dace still for a photo, said it all about the strength of dace, size for size they beat many other coarse fish in the power stakes.

Crane flies were launching off from the grass banks of the river, some dipping the water as the fought to gain height, but no fish responded to this easy meal and I continued working my way upstream, keeping in close to the bank and fishing the nymph out and up in a continual search of the bottom.

Casting alongside fronds of sunken weed, the leader stopped. Raising the rod to clear the obstacle, there was a boil as the line shot forward and another silver flash clattered across the surface, pulling the rod tip down. This was no dace, although small, it arrowed upstream into the deeper water, the 7 foot rod bending to the butt, before springing a silver trout to the surface in a shower of spray. Quickly netting the fish, its purple sheen made me think that it was a young rainbow, but the large dark spots said brown trout.

This was the last fish of the evening and the 2018 river trout fishing season for me,  a season that has continued the steady decline of a once fine wild trout stream. This two year old wild brown trout is evidence in itself, that the species can self generate, although it must be looked upon as a rare survivor.

 

Bread punch roach and dace River Blackwater bonanza

September 20, 2018 at 12:05 pm

I seem to have a habit of going fishing, when extreme weather is threatened and so it was again this week, as Hurricane Helene swept across the Atlantic toward our shores. At this time of year I put a visit to the River Blackwater into my diary. The Blackwater runs south to north and being withing 10 miles of my home at any point, I would fish it more, but generally parking is a problem, my van being too tall to get under the 2 metre barriers restricting access to most public carparks along the river. I had recently been told of a free stretch with no barriers, that ran behind an industrial estate and decided to check it out. With tackle in the van and bread from the freezer, it was worth a look, if not I could fall back on the a club stretch of Blackwater a few miles downstream.

Driving into the industrial estate, I could see immediately that parking would be a problem, designated company parking, causing the overflow of cars and vans to park up on kerbs and block entrances. I cruised the parked cars to the end, finding a space among those of a car company. Slotting in the van, I realised that I could not occupy the space for long, but while I was there, I could at least take a look at the river, which lay just through a screen of trees. The banks were overgrown, but the river was clear with little weed and I could see big chub swimming up and down, but with overhanging trees, fishing would be difficult.

Ready to drive off, I walked back to the van, only to be met by the site manager, who informed me that I was parked in a designated parking area. I apologised, saying that I just wanted to look at the river, regarding the fishing. At this his mood changed, telling me how good it was for fishing and being an angler himself, he would show me his favourite swims.

We walked up to a weir, where we could see a shoal of about a dozen bream of about 2 lb each, just sitting in the flow of the back eddy. Again it was overhung with trees, various floats tangled among the branches, evidence of attempted float fishing, it would be feeder fishing, or nothing here. We walked back to the carpark and he said “Why not have a dabble? If anybody complains about your van, say that Tony said that it was OK to park”. Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I accepted his offer, loaded up my trolley and headed back to the weir.

Just upstream of the trees, close to the outfall, was a short strip of overgrown bank, that would allow me to cast a float, spending the next twenty minutes hacking away at the stinging nettles and dead giant hog weed, with a bank stick. There was just enough room for the tackle box, so set up my 14 foot Browning with a 6BB bodied stick float and was ready to fish.

I threw out a couple of balls of liquidised bread to my side of the flow, ready to use a 6mm bread punch on a size 14 barbless hook.

First cast in the float sailed away and a hard fighting roach swung to hand.

The swim was no more than two feet deep, and I bulked the shot round the base of the float, with two No 4 shot six inches apart up from the hook. This rig worked well with no tangling, the heavy float allowing me to hold back despite the ever increasing wind.

Every put in was followed by a take, the roach often hooking themselves each time I held back hard, although this sometimes meant a bounced fish. I was catching steadily, putting in another ball and watching the shoal of roach rip into it.

Who said that perch don’t take bread, this being one of two that I caught. Roach continued to line up for the bread, having found a sweet spot on the crease between the outfall and the eddy, an under hand cast laying the float behind the bait each time, the fish grabbing the bread as it fluttered down to the bottom.

All this changed in minutes, as the sound of the water rushing over the weir drowned out the roar of the wind gusting through the trees. Upstream extra water was being released into the river, forcing the back eddy to reverse its motion and strong enough to drag my keep net round. Where I had been holding the float back against the steady flow, it was now coming back toward me. The roach were still there taking the bread, but I now began to drop lightly hooked fish. Casting out into the strong flow, the bites had changed, lightning dips and bangs of the float indicating dace, knocking off the bait in seconds. Stopping the float put me in direct contact with the fast biting dace, rattling the rod top and briefly flashing over before throwing the hook.

Got one! More by luck than judgement, setting the hook, then releasing the line allowed the dace to run, before lifting into it again. This seemed a better tactic, but their tumbling fight in the more powerful stream, saw more dace throw the hook, than reached the net. Roach were still among the dace, the more positive bites, meaning fewer lost fish.

As quickly as the rush of water had begun, it slowed again and the catching spree continued along the crease, another ball of bread concentrating the roach in a tight area. I was aware of Tony standing to one side watching me swing in fish after fish. When I asked how long he had stood there, he said “Six fish” then looking at his watch “Four minutes”. I had hoped to find one or two of the bream among the roach, but had probably struck too soon on the slower biting slabs.

Tony had never seen the bread punch in action and could not believe that it was so effective on “his” river. I said that I would be packing up at 5 pm, having fished for five hours by then and he said that he would come back for the weigh in.

The larger roach had now pushed their way to the front and going up to a 7mm punch seemed to increase the number of netters.

What a clonker! The big roach just kept coming, despite the wind that was now blowing leaves and twigs into the river and making an underhand cast impossible, a powerful overhead cast the only way to get the float out to the crease.

Like a tap being turned on, the weir began to roar again, transforming the the eddy into a whirlpool, the dace sweeping over to my side, some good ones among them.

Control of the float became difficult with the wind billowing the line back toward me, while the float was swept away in the flow. It was time to put the rod down, get out the cheese and pickle sandwiches, followed by a cup of tea. There was an area close to my bank, that looked static and I dropped the float in, but this was full of tiny chublets and gudgeon, taking several of each, before giving up to brave the elements again.

The quality roach were still there and the landing net was coming out for every other fish.

The weir shut down again and I put in another ball of liquidised bread, just to keep the roach in place, each cast bringing another.

At 5 pm the roach were still feeding, but I could hear the traffic building up on the main road behind me and I had promised to be home by six, so the rod was brought in and I took stock of the session.

The bait tray told the story of a busy afternoon, having fed a third of a loaf of liquidised bread.

As promised, Tony arrived to help me weigh in the net, I guessed it at 12 lb, while he suggested 15 lb. Lifting up the scales was an effort and the 14 lb scales bounced, then settled back to 13 lb 8 oz. I am sure that if I had set up my much softer Hardy 12 footer, I would have landed more fish, but would it have coped with the stormy winds as well? Ah well, who cares? I had had another great session on the bread punch, shame about the car parking.

Trout from the jungle

September 9, 2018 at 8:01 pm

Following up on a recent visit to my syndicate trout stream, I was back again for more punishment this week. The farmer has enclosed the river in electrified fences to keep his cattle out of the river, which in turn has made fishing from the banks extremely difficult and often painful, as I found out, when the aluminium handle of my landing net made contact with the wire, while trying to stand on the thin strip of bank between the river and the fence. The intermittent shock ran up my arm, leaving me with the feeling, that I had been hit on the left elbow by a hammer. Not pleasant, when stalking a visible trout. Add to this the untended banks and overhanging trees, that require cautious and accurate casting to avoid snagging the fly. Summer working parties were promised by the bailiffs, but never arranged.

This is a typical, once productive series of pools, that is now unfishable with a fly rod. An hour with a brushcutter would transform this bank. Wading my way through this jungle, I found the room to cast, seeing the leader jag upstream and struck, dragging a minnow clear of the water.

A few more casts and the same result, another minnow. That pool could once be relied upon to produce a few dace, maybe a chub and even a trout, but now it seems to be minnow alley. I moved on.

Wading up through shallows, I made casts toward the tail of this pool, where in low water I have often had a trout. A sharp tug saw an instant response, but the nymph flew back into trees behind me. I was able to pull the branch down with my landing net and retrieve the nymph. Moving further into the pool, I searched the area with the size 18 copper headed spider, inducing movement, lifting and dropping the rod top as I brought the line back. The line went solid and a flash of gold ahead signaled a brown trout beginning an explosive fight in the clear water, as it dived for roots. It was not big, but having been catching roach of the same size recently, more powerful by far. My net was ready as it ran round the tail of the pool and I scooped it up.

A true wild brown trout of about 10 inches long, a rare sight these days on the river. The hook had dropped out in the net, being just in the tip of the nose, the trout probably activated more by curiosity, than hunger. Stepping back into the trees, I held the trout upstream in the shallows, until it kicked away.

With confidence boosted, I made my way downstream again, intending to work my way up through a section not fished this year, but found the river choked by reeds.

I continued upstream again, until I reached the pool where last time I had three perch, but this time the total was one small perch lost as I lifted off. Upstream, between the trees, a trout was rising noisily, splashing at unseen flies. Wading beyond my waist, may have got me within casting range, but the chances of extracting what seemed to be a very large fish from among the roots and fallen branches seemed very remote and I climbed back out. From the stile, I could look down into the deep pool, but the trout failed to perform, invisible in the shadows.

Time was getting on and a final dabble in a fast flowing run-off saw the leader stop and I lifted a small dace clear of the river. Close to the road, a pound plus brown waited in the stream for offers of food and I negotiated the electric fence in an attempt to make a cast, getting an electric shock and catching my line in an overhanging clump of vegetation. This is where I came in. The trout swam to safer water and I went home. Time is running out on the season. Last year I had 18 trout, compared to only a few this.

 

 

 

 

CZ452 evening HMR stake out

September 5, 2018 at 7:13 pm

Making my monthly courtesy visit to one of my farms, I climbed the hill overlooking the yard, where I have a clear view over about 300 yards to the sides and good sight of the sheds ahead of me, where the lady owner keeps hens, ducks and geese.

The wet spring and hot summer had been perfect for haymaking and the barn was stacked out, with the surplus filling the yard, giving cover for a marauding fox, that had already taken a couple of chickens and a prime egg laying duck.

This had resulted in Ruth, the owner, having to sit out on guard with a big stick to ward off the fox. The irony is, that the fox had been dumped overnight in the driveway of the farm by an animal rescue group, who left the tame animal to fend for itself. The next morning the fox was curled up on her doorstep and Ruth decided that she would feed it, hoping that, if fed, it would not worry her birds. Wrong. A week later it dashed into the yard and dragged off a duck, fatally wounding it, despite Ruth’s best efforts to revive the bird.

A fox’s nature is to kill and sooner or later, that cuddly looking animal will revert to its inborn character. Ruth was now locking her prized birds away at 5 pm each evening, as the fox was doing its rounds between then and 7 pm, just in time for my visit. I had come for rabbits with the HMR, the 4.5mm  diameter 17 grain bullet ideal for them, but a bit lightweight for a fox beyond 80 yards, but a head shot at that range would do the trick, if I got the chance.

I settled down at the top of the hill and waited for movement. It was pleasantly warm with the sun on my back, but the sight of a big rabbit trotting slowly around the edge of the barn, brought me to my senses. Following the rabbit in the crosshairs, as it approached the gate, I held fire. It stopped and I squeezed the trigger. A half jump and it toppled over, an ideal fox bait. I left it there.

Later, after a movement to my right, I spotted another rabbit entering the gateway at the top of the lane in front of the barn. This was an 120 -130 yard shot, but with no wind, easy with the HMR, the rabbit spinning round with the impact. I left that one there too. Both rabbits gained the attention of a pair of magpies, but fortunately for them they flew off. The HMR makes a mess of magpies.

I was intending to leave at 7 pm, when the extended shadow of the fox appeared behind the barn. The animal was invisible to me at first, but there was no mistaking the deep red coat, as it danced toward the dead rabbit, briefly bending down to sniff it, then slipping behind the shed out of sight. Out it came again and I concentrated on the rabbit. It stopped short and looked straight at me on the hill, turning away to the right behind the barn. I kicked myself for not taking the shot, its white bib clearly in my sights for a second.

Picking up the rifle, I ran to the right, hoping for a shot, as it passed the other side of the barn, only to see it loping off toward a stand of willows at the bottom of the field, the white tip of its tail following into the long grass.

With the sun behind me, I thought that my head and shoulders profile would be masked by the sun. OK for rabbits, but not a wily fox. I retrieved my rabbits and headed for home.

Bread punch finds chub, roach, rudd and dace on flooded river Cut

August 31, 2018 at 11:09 am

Rumours of more pollution on my local river Cut, saw me walking the bank earlier this week, but apart from oily looking pollution booms across the outlet from the town, all looked well further downstream, with plenty of chub and rudd, visibly cruising beneath the surface. It looked so good that I decided to fish the next day, removing punch and liquidised bread from the freezer ready for the morning. I awoke the next day to the sound of rain relentlessly pounding down and changed my mind, putting it all back in the freezer. By lunch time the rain clouds were gone and the yo-yo bait was back out of the freezer again.

Arriving at my chosen swim, the river was coloured and pushing through and intending to trot along the bushes on the far side, opted to try the pole, as in the flow, it would give better control, when holding back to slow down the bait. Unlike yesterday, there were no signs of cruising fish.

Setting up a 4BB stick float rig, I plumbed the depth to find over 3 feet of water in the main flow, up at least 6 inches on normal. Squeezing together a couple of firm balls of liquidised bread, I put them in about a yard upstream of the bush and watched them sink quickly, being carried away with the flow. Hoping for a chub mid water early on, I started about a foot off bottom, stopping and starting the float as it was carried along, the 6 mm pellet of bread swinging up toward the surface. The float pulled down and the elastic came out as a rudd dived back under the bush.

This was a good sized rudd and a repeat of the method saw the float slide away again with an even better rudd.

I put in another ball, followed by the float just upstream of the bush and the float sailed off. Expecting another rudd, I lifted the pole into a mini explosion, as a black tailed chub dived back to the bush, bending the pole and taking elastic in predictable style.

I don’t know if they had followed the bread tail upriver, or had just switched on to it, but another larger chub followed next cast.

Another ball, another chub, then a smaller chub, a roach and a couple of small rudd told me that I had over fed the swim. I was also missing lightning bites, a sign of small competing fish. Time to change tactics. Plumbing the depth again, I now went three inches over depth and pulled the strung out shot down to a bulk closer to the hook link. The float now carried to the lower end of the bush, held back with the bait on and off of the bottom, the trot bringing a dip, dip bite that continued without developing, until I held back hard and the float sank from view, the elastic following a decent roach as it darted across the swim.

 

Each time the float reached the end of the bush, it buried with another roach. Dropping the float on the spot did not work, they wanted it eased down, a dip or two, then slowly down. Considering the colour and pace of the river, I had not expected such a start. Even the rudd now had their heads down and quality fish followed each other.

The bites took their time, but the fish were worth catching, the float sinking again to have the pole elastic disappearing off downstream, as a large roach flashed beneath the surface. With muddy shallows and a stick standing up on my netting line, I found myself mouthing “Please don’t come off” as it stirred up the bottom. Phew, it was in the net!

What a beauty. The Cut looks no more than a muddy ditch to many, but the quantity and quality of fish cannot be matched locally, it is such a shame that industrial pollution has devastated the stocks in the last year, but here is proof of its revival.

I continued to catch on this scale for another 15 minutes, roach, rudd and chub, then as has happened many times in the past, the colour of the water changed noticeably, when a thick, light brown muddy cloud of water swept downstream, even blotting out the bottom in the shallow margins. The bites faded away, then stopped. Where the dirty water came from I have no idea, but in the past it has come from a large building site a mile upstream, where road sweepers clean mud from the roads, then discharge it into culverts, that eventually find their way into the river.

I sat the pole on its rest and had a cup of tea. Earlier I had watched a pair of kingfishers diving from an upstream branch, but now they were occupying their time flying up and down the river, passing under and over the pole, letting out their high pitched squeak each time. Maybe they were waiting for the river to clear too.

A good sign was my mid river static float pulling under, although by the time that I had grabbed the pole, the fish was gone. The next time that it happened, I was holding the pole, but I still missed the bite. Putting in another ball of feed upstream of the bushes I tried again, the river was beginning to clear and I ran through slowly, the float holding down long enough to hook a small chub.

At least the bites had started again, but they were quick darting dips, hard to hit. If the float was left to develope a bite, the bait was gone. I guessed it was small dace and tried a trick that works on other rivers, pulling the float upstream in short jerks away from the fish, teazing them to take. It worked, the first of several small dace tumbling across the river to hand, although a few also came off.

These dace are from the 1000 introduced last December by the EA, the Cut never having them in these upper reaches, due to steep weirs between here and the Thames, but if they continue to grow, they will provide good sport to float anglers. With only the occasional small roach, or rudd joining the dace in my net, I called it a day, after close to four hours, the river clearing again by the time that I was ready to leave.

Once again the bread punch method had not let me down, at times it was slow due to the influx of muddy water, but the fish had kept coming and there was a healthy net of silvers to show for an afternoon on the bank.

Low water trout stream rare visit

August 26, 2018 at 6:12 pm

It is months since the last visit to my local syndicate trout stream, a Mayfly imitation still attached to the line, from when I had left the fly rod leaning against the wall of the garage. The heat wave, plus almost total enclosure by the farmer of the river with electric fences and barbed wire, did not inspire me to bother with the ten miles drive, while more rewarding coarse fishing was available on my doorstep.

With only six weeks of the trout fishing season left, I had not had my money’s worth out of the river this year and with an afternoon free, loaded my waders and fly gear into the van. Recent rain would have increased the flow and I was quite optimistic that a few trout might be rising. Parking the van, first impressions were not good, an electrified fence stretching across the opening for the gate. Treading the wire down with my waders to enter the field, I could see the fence ran along the top of the bank for 300 yards to the next gate, making fishing from the bank impossible, passing under, or over the wire, leaving less than a foot, or two to stand on. Stealth would not be possible on this once productive beat. This field was always used for arable crops, the bank being open, but the farm has switched to beef production, the fence to keep the young bullocks from falling from the steep banks into the river.

Through the next gate, there was more barbed wire along the high bank, before I reached the cattle drink, where the cattle can pass between fields. Above this point is a long pool, from which I circled well away from the bank, as fish often lie in the shallow water close to the opposite side. Entering the water from the gravel dam, there were no signs of rising fish upstream of me and I tied on a size 18 Copper Head Spider to bounce along the bottom of the pool.

Casting up and across to a drainage pipe, the line set in a bow as it drifted down. Lifting off there was a tap on the line. Missed it. Probably a small dace. I cast again, even a dace would do to start my session. Lifting off, tap, tap, strike! The rod doubled over as a good trout gyrated around the pool on a tight line, throwing up spray. I thought it was beaten, but one look at the landing net, sent the trout off upstream toward tree roots, pulling the rod down and the small barbless hook free. Curses.

At least there are still a few trout in here. Wading in further, I cast up among the trees. Tap, tap. Missed it. In again, another tap. Strike. A tiny chub had taken the spider.

Time to move. Continuing down, over a stile, I entered a cattle free zone in the copse, the banks lined with Himalayan Balsam. When I first joined the syndicate, the bailiffs used to organise balsam pulling sessions, the members keen to help keep the banks clear, but now with the membership in decline, the upkeep of the river too has spiralled down. Clearing my way through the tall, sweet smelling plants, I reached a point where I could get down into the river, wading up to a deep pool named Dead Cert, where once an hour spent fishing into the trees, would usually be rewarded by a trout, or two, plus big dace and chub.

Casting into the deeper water to my left produced nothing from where trout and dace would often lie and I continued slowly up above the hop bush over the river. From here I could cast among the roots of the trees, allowing the spider to drift back to my position. With the leader greased to within two feet of the fly, I watched for any movements. It slid sideways and I lifted feeling the weight of a small fish. Definitely not a trout, hugging the bottom, a perch popped up on the surface.

Oh well, at least something was working. With a cold wind blowing, there was no surface activity, or any sign of rising fish, I stuck to working the pool with the nymph, another slow pull on the leader, putting a bend in the rod, a bigger perch coming to the net.

A couple more casts and the line straightened again with yet another perch, that dived deep on its initial run, then gave up the fight, drifting back to the net.

There was probably a shoal of stripies down there, but I was here for trout and headed back over the stile, trying my luck in various pools on the way back without a touch, ending up at the cattle drink. It was now spitting with rain, but sheltering beneath a tree, I covered the pool, another sharp take meeting resistance as a small dace took the nymph.

The rain was increasing and I made a break back to the van, passing again the electrified fences and barbed wire, this once delightful little fishery now resembling a prison camp. That lost trout has raised my hopes for more to come this season. At least it had not been a complete blank.

 

 

Evening tench, roach and rudd sprint

August 22, 2018 at 12:15 pm

The heatwave returned this week, blue skies giving no relief from the sun and I cancelled a trip to a big fish venue, deciding that a short evening visit to my local Jeane’s Pond in search of tench would keep me busy. The sun was still beaming down, when I arrived after 5 pm and chose a swim in the shade, although the humidity still made for uncomfortable fishing.

The surface was covered by streaks of algae, but this did not affect the fishing, other anglers already catching their share of fish. Targeting tench, I had a mixture of liquidised bread and sweetcorn, plus ground hemp and hempseed, sprinkling a handful of complete sweetcorn over the top of the pint bait container. This has been a successful mix for tench, crucians and carp at other venues in the past and was keen to see how it would work on this pond, putting in four balls along the drop off four metres out.

The hemp was an immediate draw and I guessed that someone had been using it here earlier in the day, fish swirling to the groundbait as it went in. My first few casts on the bread punch were seized the instant that it hit the surface by roach too small for the keepnet and I switched to sweetcorn on the hook and netted a quality rudd.

Despite not feeding, the float continued to disappear at speed, before the bait had a chance to reach the bottom and I continued filling my net at a pace with silver fish, roach and rudd.

In the swim to my left, the angler was steadily catching quality roach and the occasional small tench, fishing further out with running line and a waggler, using luncheon meat on the hook, reminding me that he was going for quality, not quantity like me, fishing the margin on the pole. I was catching as many good roach and rudd as him, but was blasting my way through the small stuff in the process. It took about half an hour to start to catch fish on the bottom, the float now steadily sinking out of sight with the line following, the elastic coming out with my first tench storming off.

300 of these small tench were introduced by the Environment Agency last December and have already put on weight, complimenting the original stock.

Roach and rudd, plus another small tench kept me busy, the float just sinking away each time. One bite, lifting and dipping, caused me to strike early expecting a small rudd, but the elastic came out as a large crucian carp fought deep. With it beaten on the surface, I reached for my landing net, only for it to twist off the hook.

At 7:30 it was time to go, my last fish, a big roach, the best of a quality bunch, over 7 lbs in two hours, lacking in my target tench, but a sign of a very healthy water.

 

 

Bread punch tench and crucian carp bonus

August 16, 2018 at 1:27 pm

When thunder, lightning and hail forced an early retreat from Kings Pond last week, I resolved to return for another session. This week

I arrived in sunshine to find the fishery carpark with only a few vacant spaces and anglers occupying all the early pegs on the pond, having to take the long walk to the far end, before I could find an opening. This at least gave me the chance to chat to a few of the locals on my way down, most of whom were struggling for bites on pellet and maggot baits, three inch roach proving to be a nuisance. Only one tench had been taken so far, that coming to ledgered red maggots in a feeder from the opposite bank.

Not too encouraging then. This pond is billed as a premier fishery, where an average angler should catch 20 – 30 of fish in a day according to the hype, but cormorants have damaged the fish stocks in the past, hence the tapes stretched across the pond. One informant said that there used to be many chub in the pond, but they were ideal cormorant fodder, the club now only stocking with tench and crucian carp.

Most of the other swims had an attractive clump of lilies either side, but this one was open with a small lily bed to my left. I prefer open water for the pole, giving more of a chance to control a running fish. First catch a fish.

Ready to use the bread punch, I plumbed up and found the inside shelf extended four metres out, a bit further than I would have wished, going from three to five feet deep with a steep drop off. I started with a ball over the drop off and another a metre further out, casting the pole rig in between the two with a 7 mm bread pellet on a size 14 hook, the depth set just off bottom. The float sat for a couple of minutes, then a tell tale ring spread from the float antenna, before a dip and a slow sink away, lifting into a roach.

A nice sized roach to start. Back into the same spot again and an identical bite, but this time the elastic stayed out with a better fish pounding away, an even better roach coming to the net.

A couple of smaller roach followed. Bites were slow to develope, but positive steady pull unders. Putting in another small ball of liquidised bread, I cast into it and watched the float slide away and lifted into a fish that powered away keeping deep, taking elastic. Thinking small tench, I was surprised to net a small perch. Taking on the drop, the perch obviously mistook the bread for a small fish. Not the first on the bread punch for me.

Small bubbles were now bursting over the baited area and I added another six inches to the depth on my float. The float sank immediately and the pole bent over into a good fish that fought hard and deep, throwing up bursts of bubbles as it ran along the bottom, the elastic doing its job of buffering each run.

Breaking the pole down to the top two sections, the net was ready to slip under a fat, round crucian carp. This is what I had come for. I had caught five fish from five punches of bread in the first thirty minutes, pretty slow going for the punch, but judging from what I could see further along the pond, a lot better than anyone else.

The inside line now seemed dead, the punch getting a few knocks, but nothing positive. I put a couple of balls over to the lily bed on my left and got a bite. A small rudd had taken the bread on the way down.

Better than nothing, I shallowed up again and began to catch roach instead, casting close to the lilies. The wind had been increasing since my arrival and it now began to blow a gale, dragging the float along in the drift.

Needing to refill the bait box, I opted for a change of plan. Mixing a third of ground fish pellets to the liquidised bread, topped with a covering of boiled hemp seed, I added water to make up a stiff ground bait and put in several balls straight out in front of me between six and eight metres out, where I had seen bubbles rising. To counter the drift, I set the float a foot over depth, with two No 8 shot on the bottom. I did not have long to wait, the float sinking well out of sight, before the pole bent into another elastic stretching fish.

Brilliant, nailing the bait to the bottom was the answer, the float going away again, this time a quality roach making off with the bread.

Back out again, the float lifted and plunged from view, followed by stretching elastic. I added another length of pole to follow the fish, which made a bee line for the lily bed, turning it to then follow across to my right, a tench eventually rolling on the surface to be netted.

This tough little male tench was in perfect condition, fighting hard to escape as I tried for a photo. I had kept the pole at nine metres, dropping the float in for another instant bite and an even more powerful fish, this time a larger female tench.

In again, this time a crucian fighting hard. The fish were out there and competing for the feed, the bites being unmissable.

Then another plate of gold.

The bites were still coming, more roach and a crucian coming to the net, then another tench, this time a small male that fought for all it was worth.

The wind was still rippling the water, the float blinking in the waves, striking when it failed to appear after a couple of times. A roach bream hybrid sailed away with the line in tow.

The variety of fish continued, several bright orange rudd intercepting the bait on the way down.

Time was getting on and the tench and crucians seemed to have stopped feeding, so made 3 pm my dead line to pack up, ending the session with yet another quality roach.

At one time during the afternoon, I thought that 20 lb was on the cards, but almost as I considered it, the better fish went off the feed. The angler in the next peg came round to see my catch and seemed impressed, ringing the changes between red maggot, micro pellets and banded pellets, he had pole fished to the middle for a small tench and two crucians, plus a mix of roach and small perch since 8 am for about 5 lb. In just over four hours, I had stuck to the bread to put 8 lb on the scales.

 

 

 

 

Crucian carp and roach worth a soaking?

August 11, 2018 at 3:22 pm

The forecast said sunshine and showers between 11 am  and 12 today, but arriving at Kings Pond near Farnham, it was already raining as I tackled up before 10. A strong wind was also getting up, so I had stopped at the first peg, where there was a bit of bankside cover. Preferring not to fish under a brolly, I put on a large waterproof hooded jacket, which when sitting on my box, drapes over my legs. This was enough for any shower and anyway it’s summer, the rain is warm isn’t it?

The main problem was that, fishing the bread punch, I needed to keep my punch bread dry, so I part filled a bait box with liquidised bread for feed and cleared an area to punch the quarter slices. Replacing the lid each time.

I squeezed up a couple of balls and put them over the shelf into 4 ft of water. The bottom here is clean sand and I plumbed the depth to fish just on bottom. I started with a 5 mm punch on a size 16 hook, but was plagued by small roach sinking the float each time.

Rain was increasing, making bite detection difficult and switched over my rig from a 4 x 14 float to a 4 x 16 with a slightly thicker antenna and a size 14 barbless hook, going up to a 7 mm punch pellet. This worked, the float being more visible and I watched it hold down a couple of times before sinking beneath the rain lashed surface. Lifting in, the elastic came out as the fish kept deep out of sight, until close to the net, a crucian carp popped up to the top.

Not a monster, but this is what I came for, the pond noted for it’s crucians and tench. I was beginning to have my doubts though, a passing angler on his way home, complaining that he had been there since 6 am without a fish. The pond had been dead during the heatwave and he had hoped, like me, that the recent rain would perk things up. He was using pellets, I was on the bread, which in difficult conditions gives me an edge. The elastic was out again, this time a nice roach coming to the net.

The larger pellet of bread was still being attacked by small roach and I was surprised, when a lift bite saw the elastic stretching out across toward the opposite bank, this fight different to a roach or crucian. Soon this fish was on the surface, its dorsal fin clear before sliding into the net.

This was a very shiny fish, a brief appearance of the sun glinting off its scales. It was very pale, more like a silver bream, roach hybrid, than the usual roach bream hybrid. It may have been a european ide, the Farnham AS even stocking barble into this pond, so why not ide?

The sun was short lived, the wind increased and in the distance could hear thunder rolling towards me, then flashes of lightning. The rain hammered down again and I hunkered down beneath my hood.

The first I knew that the float was gone, was the elastic zooming out of the pole tip heading for the lily bed opposite. This was a carp, or one of the fabled barble and I turned the pole to counter the run, the pole bending round. The fish rolled, then headed back in my direction and came off. What a let down, a decent sized fish would have been a just reward for sitting out in this storm. The hook was still there and I baited up with another three balls spread out in front of me, then sat out the worst that the weather could throw at me.

The wind eased and I dropped the float over the baited area, the float sinking away after a minute of dithering. This time I was back in control as a decent crucian fought deep under my feet, the hook dropping out in the landing net.

I made no mistake about the next bite, a broad healthy roach powering away, pulling out the elastic.

The wind began gusting, with steady big rain drops hitting the surface and I could hear thunder in the distance. When the float went down, I decided that this was going to be the last fish, another roach coming to the net.

As the rain began to pound down, I tried to pack up, the storm arriving like a tornado, with thunder, lightning and hail.

The storm was overhead and feeling vulnerable I retreated to a bush, that gave some shelter from the wind, but no protection from a lightning strike. With the rain now running from my jacket soaking my legs, I began throwing bits of tackle into bags. I would sort it all out later.

Pulling my net from the water, it now felt warm to the touch, tipping my fish into the landing net for a quick photo, before returning them.

Walking back to the van, the sun came out again, but too late for me. Arriving home early, my wife spoke of one short five minute shower at 11 am, while I had suffered all morning. At least the weather forecast was right for somebody.